November 12, 2010

archetypes - introduction

Yesterday, Julie Eshbaugh posted about “Archetypes, not Stereotypes” on the LTWF blog (you can read that here), and as infuriated as I was that she stole my topic, she encouraged me to go on and start my archetypes series. Julie and I had similar inspiration for the topic – Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – she just beat me to writing the post.

The idea behind the archetypes comes from Joseph Campbell’s analysis of mythology in his book The Hero with A Thousand Faces. These ideas are expanded upon by Vogler, who uses his experience as a screenwriter to apply the same theories to movies and writing.

Archetypes are the recurring character types in stories, from myths to modern fiction. The term comes from Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who applied “archetypes” to patterns of personality. He suggested that humanity as a whole may have a collective unconscious, which is why myths from the beginning of different civilizations have the same characteristics.

The most common archetypes are the

Over the course of the next week and a half, I’m going to go in detail for each of these archetypes and end the series with an introduction to the Hero’s Journey, in which all these characters can be employed.

As Julie pointed out in her post, the archetypes aren’t necessarily stereotypes:

One way to see the difference is to imagine an archetype as a base to build upon.   An archetype is a prototype of a character.   On the other hand, a stereotype is an overly simplified concept of a character, with overly simplified opinions or behaviors.   A stereotype is two-dimensional and generally stays that way.

I couldn’t say it better.

The archetypes are flexible character functions, not necessarily rigid roles. The hero could take on the function of a mentor or even the trickster for a short time but still remain the hero. The same could be said about the mentor functioning as a shapeshifter or herald in addition to his mentoring duties.

There are many ways to use the archetypes, be they masks for the characters, facets of the writer’s personality, or personified symbols of human qualities. Vogler says, “Every good story reflects the total human story, the universal human condition of being born into this world, growing, learning, struggling to become an individual, and dying."

Monday, I’ll begin the archetypes series with the Hero.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Looking forward to all the posts in the series! I always like deeply conflicted characters who bounce between these archetypes often. :)

  2. Hey Brooke, I just saw this teaser! Thanks for the shout out! I'm really looking forward to the up-coming posts in the series. :)